January 31, 1998 in Nation/World

Rescuers Help Beached Dolphins 50 Die On Cape Cod In 2 Days; Mass Strandings Still A Mystery

Associated Press
 

Rescuers struggled in cold, windy weather and rough seas Friday to save dozens of dolphins off of Cape Cod, where more than 50 of the animals have died in the past two days.

White-striped dolphins began beaching themselves here Thursday morning. Many died from exposure, and others were euthanized.

Seven dolphins from a group of 20 that had been herded back to sea Thursday were found beached again Friday morning - a common occurrence in mass strandings, said Susan Gedutis, a spokeswoman for the New England Aquarium.

“Nobody knows really why animals strand like this,” Gedutis said. “The theory is, because they move in social groups, they think in social groups. When one or two get sick and go ashore, sometimes the whole pod will follow them in.”

An alternate theory holds that the dolphins may have been driven ashore by unusually high tides caused by a new moon and stormy coastal weather.

Scientists and rescuers have taken blood and tissue samples from several of the animals to test for disease.

Rescuers were able to herd out more than a dozen dolphins but were unsure whether the animals would stay in deep water.

“They’re very disoriented, very confused. But with a falling tide and a current they can ride on, we feel that getting them out into deeper water will get them back to the sea,” said Peter Trull, education director at the Center for Coastal Studies.

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